I'm going to have to...
, March 2, 2009
I'm going to have to join the chorus of praises on this page and sing another
one for the Pilot Parallel.
It's a bit of a paradox. The Parallel is cheap - very cheap. And it's overtly
plastic, and it's not even that elegantly put together. Its plastic parts have
seam lines all over the place, the silver color of the body isn't 100% even...
And yet, it doesn't matter one lick, because the Parallel is simply the best
writing calligraphy fountain pen I've ever used.
The secret, of course, is Pilot's "parallel plate" nib. The name is a little
ambiguous; After all, every calligraphy fountain pen nib consists of two
"parallel" plates, one next to the other with a split down the middle. The Pilot
pen, on the other hand, has two plates sandwiched on top of each other. Ink
flows between them and because of the comparatively massive capillary surface
area it's kept flowing smoothly and is remarkably resistant to drying out in the
The end result works surprisingly well. The Parallel is somewhat sensitive to
how flat you hold its nib against the paper, moreso than traditional calligraphy
pens, but when used correctly it produces the cleanest, crispest, most even
lines I've ever experienced. It's nib-to-paper feel is likewise excellent and is
usually an indicator of how you're handling the pen. If the feel isn't
silky-smooth it's a surefire sign that you're not holding the nib flat.
That said, the Parallel is a very wet writer (as repeatedly mentioned by others)
and because of this you have to be a bit careful about how fast you write and
what kind of paper you use. The Parallel is undoubtedly capable of being used on
just about any paper (except maybe paper towels, or tissue paper) if you get the
lead out and don't let the nib stay stationary for long. On coarse or porous
paper, though, that huge capillary surface area can whip up an inkblot the size
of a quarter in seconds if you just poke the nib into one place and leave it
there, so don't do that. If you have a habit of resting or tapping the nib
against your paper while you ponder your next sentence, do yourself a favor and
knock it off.
The only ink I've tried in mine so far is the stock Pilot branded stuff that
came with it, so I can't comment on how thinner versus thicker inks will work
with the Parallel. Reports indicate that thicker inks will be more controllable,
and I can certainly see how that would be true. When it's moving, at least, the
Parallel is about as wet as the customized (ground nib) Sheaffer I'm used to
using, so I would imagine it'd do just fine with ink similar to Sheaffer's
"Skrip" stuff and equivalents.
Towards that end, the Parallel comes with a couple of goodies of varying
utility. There's a nib cleaning card, for a start, which is meant to be used to
floss dirt and paper swarf out from between the nib plates. You get one measley
black cartridge and one red with the pen, and they're proprietary to Pilot pens
and functionally unavailable in the US except by mail order. You get a converter
cartridge with the set but it's a rubber "squeeze bulb" design that's got
miserable suction and worse capacity. Pilot insists that the converter cartridge
is only intended to be used to clean the pen (by sucking up and backwashing
water or cleaning fluid through the nib) and I'd just as soon take their word
for it. If you want to refill the Parallel, get a syringe and just refill an
empty cartridge instead.
My only other complaint is that the Parallel doesn't come with any sort of
pocket clip. It makes sense, because the pen's body is longer than your usual
pocket-pen, but it makes life difficult for those of us who use our calligraphy
pens for day-to-day writing. (The dingus that sticks out of the Parallel's cap,
if you're wondering, is just a flap of plastic that's meant to keep the pen from
rolling away.) There's also no way to affix the cap to the tail of the pen, so
you'll have to find someplace else to stick it while you're writing.